‘Go away!’ said Frau Ebermann. ‘Go home to your father and mother! ‘
Their faces grew grave at once.
‘H’sh! We can’t,’ whispered the eldest ‘There isn’t anything left.’
‘All gone,’ a boy echoed, and he puffed through pursed lips. ‘Like that, uncle told me. Both cows too.’
‘And my own three ducks,’ the boy on the girl’s lap said sleepily.
‘So, you see, we came here.’
This is from “Swept and Garnished”, written in the early weeks of the Great War.
Frau Ebermann, a well to do elderly woman, in her well appointed Berlin flat, has a touch of influenza. Suddenly she sees a young child in the room, and soon after, four more. She tells them to go home, but they tell her they have no homes to go to; ‘there isn’t anything left’.
They are from two Belgian villages whose names Frau Ebermann knows, because she had read in the papers that those villages had been punished, ‘wiped out, stamped flat.’ The little visitors tell her that there are hundreds and thousands of them. One little boy is badly hurt, with an empty sleeve where he may have lost his arm. They show her their wounds, and leave, saying au revoir.